Bus Riding Poodle!

Vivian added a new volunteer venue to her resume this past week. She is now an official Life Care Medical Center volunteer! Life Care is the hospital and nursing home in our neighboring city of Roseau, and we got interested in going there when we met Deb the RN at the health fair in Warroad last October. It took some time, a few emails and a call to the local bus to figure out the “How” and on Monday we had our volunteer orientation.

As some people know, I am visually impaired and no longer able to drive a car. I can see, but some things are distorted and other things may appear to be closer or farther away than they really are. I tend to trip over non-existent bumps in the road, walk into door jambs, and have given up on applying mascara, because the wand ends up in my eye more often than not. Technology is my friend, and I love my kindle, my 40 inch TV, my IPad, and my 32 inch computer monitor. I also love my chauffer, Mr. Puppyjackpot, who takes me wherever I need to go. Marvin flight at 5:30 AM on a Monday morning? No problem. The grocery store, the pharmacy, the bank, the Warroad Senior Living Center, he is on it. But asking him to take me to Roseau, to volunteer seemed just a bit over the top. Therapy Dog work is my dream, not his, and he already gives up an hour and a half each Saturday to take me to the Senior Living Center.

According to their website the FAR North Transit bus is GENERAL PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, and is for everyone. It is handicapped accessible transportation and anyone can ride regardless of age, race, sex, religion, or income. So did anyone include a black, standard poodle therapy dog? A few emails later and I had my answer; my therapy dog that was going to work at the hospital would be allowed to ride the bus as long as I was with her. Vivian is a really good and smart therapy dog, but so far she has only been allowed to work if I am with her, so no problem there!

Monday, I took the afternoon off, went home for lunch and picked up Vivian and her volunteer gear. Mr. Puppyjackpot dropped us at the parking lot at work where the Far North bus picked us up. As he opened the door the driver looked at us a little skeptically.
“Is that your therapy dog, the poodle?”
“Yes, this is Vivian” I replied.
“I thought she would be little”
“Is she too big to ride?” I asked.
“No, but they said she would ride on your lap.”
“She might, she fancies herself a lapdog and she has never been on a bus, so she might be a bit timid” I told him.
“OK, I got room, come on up”

Vivian walked up the steps with a little prodding, walked to the front seats, jumped up and took the window seat. I sat alongside her. As we headed down the road, Vivian sitting regally next to me, the driver kept shooting her looks in the rearview mirror. “I have never seen a dog like that!”

“A standard poodle?”
“No, a dog that thinks it’s a person”
“That my friend, is because you have never met a standard poodle!”

At the next stop Vivian watched as a man entered the bus, greeted the driver and sat across from us. Vivian leaning forward, turned her head and stared at the man, which I will admit was probably a little rude, but she is a dog.

“Tell your dog to quit looking at me”
“Vivian, stop looking at him,” at which point she turned forward and gazed out the window.
“Your dog understood that?” the driver asked.
“Apparently” I replied.
“What kind of dog is that again?”

And from the back of the bus, came the reply; “A very smart dog!”

Vivian is a therapy dog, volunteer, bus rider, poodle ambassador and yes a very smart dog!
riding bus

There is a reason they call it a Nursing HOME!

Not long ago I read a facebook post that likened prisoners to residents in nursing homes. In fact it stated that prisoners were treated better than nursing home residents. I have to admit, I physically recoiled when I read that statement. I have actually worked in a prison, filled with incarcerated adult males and I currently volunteer in a nursing home. To equate one with the other, when it comes to CARE-taking is, I believe, inaccurate and unfair.

I am not talking about funding, or resources, I don’t want to get into that debate; but this post was simply saying that prisoners were cared for better than those in nursing homes. Really? What are the metrics behind that statement? How many nursing homes or prison’s, for that matter had the writer been in? What is their definition of care?

I am in a nursing home weekly. I know the nurses, the aids, the activity coordinators, the receptionists, the cooks and the housekeepers. I have watched them clean up rooms, serve food, hold hands, play bingo, do nails, serve a Pepsi or a cup tea, locate a favorite CD or bring their puppies and new babies in on a day off. This in addition to also taking care of the residents health needs; no small task when we realize that most people don’t enter a nursing home due overwhelming “wellness”. Viv and feathers

I have watched nursing home caregivers provide a space for memorial services, serve the lunch after the memorial (because that is what we do in Minnesota) and I have seen them lead the memorial service when there was no one else to do it.

I have also seen them cry. Cry when a resident dies; cry while hugging a family member. Yes, even cry along with the volunteer dog lady the first time she experienced the death of one the residents she visited.

Frankly that wasn’t my experience at the prison. Three meals and a cot, isn’t the same thing at all. Now I am not saying that the people who work in prisons don’t care. I certainly did. But it is different kind of caring and a different kind of caretaking. And by comparing the two you belittle the nursing home professionals, the family members and the residents. A prison is where you stay, because you did something wrong. A Senior Living Facility is home.
Viv and Peggy volunteering